The number of cases involving turbines collapsing, self immolating or throwing their blades to the four winds (aka “component liberation”) has become so common that, if we were a tad cynical, we would go so far to suggest the possibility of some kind of pattern, along the lines proffered by Mr Bond’s nemesis, Goldfinger: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times it’s enemy action”.
This collection of stories from the US, UK, Germany and Canada suggests either enemy action or a product with a thoroughly hopeless design.
Missaukee County Wind Turbine Destroyed By Fire
9 and 10 News
21 December 2106
“We got on scene to find heavy smoke and fire,” says Jay Deboer, deputy chief for the McBain Fire Department.
Fire way up at the top of a wind turbine.
We caught on camera the third blade slamming to the ground in flames.
Fire crews arrived just after one-thirty on Tuesday, but realized there was little they could do about it.
All three blades came crashing down, which was a frightening experience for people living in the area.
The turbine owned by Heritage Sustainable Energy in the Stoney Corners Wind Farm in McBain, between County Line and Lucas Roads in Missaukee County.
9&10’s Megan Atwood was on scene of the fire and talked with the family who owns the property where the turbine once stood.
“Unfortunately with the hazards because of the heavy machinery that’s up there, there’s not much that we could do until it falls down or wait until the point that it’s safe and we can send somebody up there to make an inspection,” says Jay Deboer, the Deputy Chief for McBain Fire Department.
A wind turbine in flames. Fire crews had to sit back and wait it out.
For nearby homeowners, it was a shocking sight.
“We couldn’t believe it was on fire. We were amazed,” says Larry Pluger.
Larry Pluger says he arrived at home minutes before this turbine caught fire and couldn’t believe his eyes. This is what he was seeing in his backyard.
“We just got home from working and we sat on our chairs and I got a call from my son Kevin and he said did you call 911? And I said why? He said the windmill is on fire,” Pluger goes on to say.
Heritage Sustainable Energy owns the turbine and says this has never happened before in McBain.
“All of these machines are monitored remotely so there was a fault at some point. The fire is out but we’ll continue to monitor just in case of the remainder of the evening and into the night,” says Rick Wilson, Vice President of Operations for Heritage Sustainable Energy.
The company even offering help if anyone nearby needed it.
“They said we could’ve gotten a motel tonight if our house smelled, they would put us up,” continues Larry Pluger.
This wind farm designed to keep people living near it safe, in case something like this ever happens.
“We keep them well away from any houses or residents so there is no danger under any condition. Once in a while we have accidents like this that occur but safety precautions are very well adhered to and we take great care in that,” continues Wilson.
“We thought sometimes some of the ashes might land on our house, but they didn’t. The fire department was all around and it was real windy,” Pluger goes on to say.
The energy company will investigate to figure out what went wrong.
9 and 10 News
Meanwhile in Britain …
Storm Barbara blows blades from wind turbine
Manchester Evening News
24 December 2016
High winds and heavy rain caused disruption to roads and buildings on Friday afternoon as Storm Barbara hit the region.
A dog walker watched in horror as Storm Barbara blew the blades from a wind turbine – and they headed towards him.
Grandfather Ray Gansler was walking on the hills near Bacup, Rossendale, with his Staffordshire Bull Terrier Lucy at around 2.30pm on Friday.
High winds and heavy rain caused disruption to roads and buildings around the region on Friday afternoon.
Ray, 50, said: “I heard a noise that sounded like the squeak of a van and then I saw the blades of the turbine had come off and were coming towards me very quickly.
“I just hit the ground and covered Lucy. To me it seemed like it was coming close to me and then the wind caught it and smashed it into a field.”
One of the four 34.2m high wind turbines on land at Scar End Farm is now missing its three blades and central hub; they landed in a nearby field full of saplings.
Mr Gansler, of Weir near Bacup, said: “As the blades dug into the ground it didn’t half make a loud noise. It frightened my dog and it frightened me. It made such a loud bang and I didn’t know if the blades were going to come off.”
He raised the alarm with the owner of the land where the turbines are based and also contacted the police.
Mr Gansler said: “The turbine nearest the farm had switched off, but the other two were still spinning around at a rapid speed.
“I was worried that if another one broke off and landed on the other side of the hill there are houses nearby.
“When you see something like that coming towards you, you really think it is going to hit you.”
TGC Renewables applied for the wind farm at Scar End in 2012 and was initially rejected permission by Rossendale Borough Council following public objection.
That decision was overturned later that year on appeal by the planning inspector.
Manchester Evening News
Meanwhile in Germany …
Collapse of wind turbine under investigation
5 January 2017
The collapse of a 95 metre high wind turbine in Saxony, eastern Germany, on Thursday is under investigation.
The Saxony online daily Sächsische Zeitung (SZ) here reported the incident at the wind farm near Leisnig. So far the investigation has found that one of three blades failed catastrophically, thus creating a huge imbalance that caused the tower to buckle 15 meters above the ground and led to the structure crashing down.
According to the report, “Through the force of the impact, the gearbox unit was driven almost 2 meters into the earth.”
Wolf Stotzel, technical expert at the German Wind Energy Association told Power Engineering International the turbine involved was a ‘Tacke TW 600 Windmill with LM19 –Blades.’
Operating company Eurowind Energy GmbH’s Branch Manager, Benjamin Schmitt said the economic damage arising from the accident comes to over half a million euros.
This sum consists of the possible revenues for the wind energy as well as a recovery price in case the wind turbine had been dismantled regularly for further operation. According to German press agency information, the full feed-in tariff would still have been paid for the damaged wind turbine until 31 December 2019.
Eurowind are considering placing an identical wind turbine for installation at the wind farm.
“This is an option,” Schmitt said. “From the point of view of the maintenance company no new authorization is required.”
The windmill was produced in 1999, according to Rasmus GmbH, the turbine’s maintenace firm, who added that the latest maintenance in June had found no safety deficiencies.
Eurowind Energy, which has been operating three more turbines in the park for around two years, and around 300 nationwide stated the wind turbines are in the so-called repowering phase and are to be replaced by modern systems. According to Schmitt, the building permit has already been applied for, but is not yet available. “This will be a while longer,” he told German media.
The incident comes weeks after a similar turbine collapse in the Mecklenburg Pommeria town of Süderholz. BILD daily reported how a wind turbine tower snapped in half and crashed to the ground. An investigation is also underway there and Süderholz mayor Alexander Benkert ordered the other remaining turbines to be thoroughly inspected.
The tower snapped 25 meters up but that no one was injured.
In addition to the turbine that collapsed in Saxony, there were a further 3 ‘incidents’ across Germany with Der Speigel reporting:
At the beginning of the week, a wind turbine with a height of almost 100 meters collapsed near Hamburg. In addition, the 40-meter-long blade of a wind turbine broke in Zichow in the Uckermark, while in Süderholz (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) a 70-meter-high wind turbine tower fell in mid-December.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Nova Scotians were tapping into the effects of gravity as yet another 290 tonne Vestas plummeted back to terra firma.
People near snapped wind turbine say winds were high but not unprecedented
5 January 2016
Nova Scotia Power and wind turbine maker Vestas trying to determine cause.
People living near a wind turbine in Grand Étang that snapped in half Tuesday night say the winds were high but not unprecedented for that area of Cape Breton.
“We never expected that to happen,” said Rene Tartaglia, who lives near the turbine with his wife, Doreen Aucoin. “The windmill had been there for so long, and we’d had a lot of big wind.”
There was a severe wind warning Tuesday night, with winds reaching 160 km/h, but it’s unclear if that had anything to do with the break.
Inspectors were on scene Thursday taking pictures and assessing the damage.
Nova Scotia Power said no one was at the site at the time and no one was injured.
Tartaglia said the weather was foggy at the time of the collapse. “But I could see the debris was flying down towards the ocean. And after that I realized the windmill was no longer standing.”
Tartaglia said he felt safe after the collapse, but his wife was more concerned.
“If it’s too windy, then maybe it’s not the right place for it,” said Aucoin. “Because it is close to houses and I imagine the people up the hill … they must have been scared because it was right near to their house.”
Laurette Chiasson, a resident who has lived in the area for 59 years, said she’s never had a problem with the windmill, though she was scared after the collapse about pieces hitting the house.
2nd collapse since August
The 50-metre tall wind turbine was made by Denmark-based Vestas.
It was built in 2002 and was one of the first in Nova Scotia with a single 660-kilowatt Vestas turbine. Nova Scotia Power said the model is the only one of its kind in the province.
The collapse was the second one on Cape Breton in the last few months.
In August, an 80-metre wind turbine collapsed in Point Tupper. It was believed to be the first catastrophic failure of its kind in Canada.
Maintenance crews were replacing a “major component” on Aug. 17 when “an incident occurred,” said a spokesperson for Enercon, the Montreal-based company responsible for the turbines in Point Tupper.